If you would like to vote for Kevin Youkilis’s beard this season click on the image below (you will have to pay one dollar that will go to Hits For kids).
Here is a video about Youk shaving off his go-tee.
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On March 26th, Mike Lowell was hitting in a spring training game against the Jays. He fouled the ball off his leg and collapsed. Immediately the trainers came out of the dugout. They got him back on his feet and into the locker room. At first it looked like a scary injury, but after the game Mike thought that the bruise will only sideline him for a few days. After the game he was asked has this been a difficult spring training. Mike replied with “More frustrating than difficult”.
Those times are long gone. Indeed, as Theo Epstein pointed out, “statistically, if you consider 2008 and 2009, you could make the case there has been no better player [than Kevin Youkilis] in the league.”
In his best-selling book Moneyball, Michael M. Lewis told the story, of how analyzing baseball statistics rather than relying on traditional measures of performance–such as, a beautiful swing, strong arm, or speed–predicted more accurately the value of a palyer’s contribution to a team. For example, on-base percentage (including walks) and total bases are more reliable than a player’s batting average at predicting wins. Such insights would have dramatic implications for how amateur players are drafted (see videos below). Players who would have been overlooked in previous generations suddenly seemed more promising when analyzed using those new methods. Youkilis was such a player.
“Youkilis was a fat third baseman who couldn’t run, throw, or field.” Still, Paul DePodesta (quoted in Moneyball) argued that “[t]he scouts ought to go have a look” at him. Why? Because the boy could get on base. Michael Lewis writes:
Inded, three months into his professional career, Youkilis had “the second highest on-base percentage in all of professional baseball, after Barry Bonds. To Paul, he’d become Euclis: the Greek god of walks.)
On May 15, 2004, Youkilis made his MLB debut. Youk was called up from AAA (just ten months from his last AA game), because Bill Mueller (the Red Sox third baseman) was put on the DL.
“It’s been great, a lot of fun,” Youkilis would say after his first start in the bigs. “The part of the situation that is not good is Bill [Mueller]. He is such a great guy and a huge part of this team.”
Youk expected to be in Boston only a fortnight but remained in Boston for six additional weeks because Bill underwent arthroscopic knee surgery. In 11 games, he hit .278 with a on-base percentage of .413. His early success gave him confidence: “I know I’m going to be playing,” Youkilis told reporters matter-of-factly. In April, however, Youkilis found himself on the way back down to Pawtucket, because the team needed to activate Curt Schilling.
Ben Jacobs of The Hard Ball Times asked Youkilis, “Do you see yourself as the future starting third baseman for the Red Sox?”
I hope. They don’t know ever. A big-market team, you never know what’s going to happen. For me, I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. Hopefully, that’s what’s going to happen some day, but for me, I’ve just got to go out and do what I’ve got to do to get myself better and get myself ready to help that team up there.
That August Bill Mueller was having back spasms in batting practice, so Kevin was called up again. He was in Pawtucket’s clubhouse getting dressed for a game. Without changing out of the same white pants that he wore for the Pawtucket home games, he packed his car, sped to Boston, dashed into the Red Sox clubhouse, threw on his jersey and cleats, and went out to take his place on third (not unlike Doug Mirabelli’s famous return to Boston).
The commuting was not over. Kevin would return to Pawtucket and play 43 more games in AAA. Youkilis was asked by Ben Jacobs, “Having been a part of everything that went on last year for the Red Sox, how difficult is it being back in the minor leagues?” Youk responded:
It’s difficult. There’s one guy that had to go down, go on waivers or whatever, and I was the only one that had options. You never want it to happen, but it happened and now I’ve got to deal with it.
Of course, even in the minors Kevin was gaining fame among baseball fans given his role in Moneyball.
In Part 3, I’ll discuss Kevin’s time as a full-time member of the Red Sox.
Watch the 60 minutes video after the jump.
This month my theme is Kevin Youkilis. Here is a video I put together.
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Kevin Youkilis was born March 15, 1979, in Cincinnati Ohio. “Kevin was the most enthusiastic player that I can ever remember in three decades of coachng,” Ted Schumacher said. “Yet, he was never the heralded ‘star.’ . . . Kevin was a steady performer but far from sensational. Yet his work ethic and passion were second to none. He simply would never quit.” (Cincinnati Enquirer, Ted Schumacher, October 26, 2007.)
Box Set.com– Thu, May 29 10 second clip of Red Sox 1st baseman Kevin Youkilis at age 11 in the 1994 movie Milk Money with Ed Harris and Melanie Griffith. Youkilis is the older kid taking money from the younger kids. . .
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After he graduated from Sycamore High School in 1997, two Division 1 schools recruited him: Butler University and his ultimate choice, the University of Cincinnati. Youk chose Cincinnati over Butler University, because both his father and his long-time idol, Sandy Kofax, had attended UC.
The UC Bearcats had just had a terrible season of 12-46. At a winter camp the Bearcats Manager (Brian Cleary) spotted Youkilis and would later recount his impressions of the young player this way: “I looked at him and said, ‘Well, we need somebody.’ I’d love to tell you I saw something no one else did, but he was just better than what we had.” Indeed he was. Youk excelled all four years he played at UC and would become one of the few All-Americans to play as a Bearcat. “I take no credit,” said Cleary. “He coaches himself. He knows his swing. Any time we said anything to him, he was already a step ahead. He made the adjustments he had to make. I just think he’s a really smart guy who had a great feel for what he had to do.”
Even with Kevin’s collegiate success and unmistakable work ethic, some people never thought he would make it to the bigs. As Youkilis would recount, “People told me throughout my college years that, ‘I don’t know. He’s kind of pudgy. He can’t really move around well. I don’t know if he can be a professional athlete.'” However, Youk’s high school friend and college roommate always believed in him: “He told me . . . . ‘The day you make it to the major leagues is the day I’ll be there.'”
In June, 2001, Youkilis made his MiLB debut. In that season, Youk walked so much that he tied the Minor League record for reaching base in consecutive games–an amazing string of 71. He got on base so much while he was in the Minor Leagues that his team nicknamed him ‘The Greek Of God of Walks.” Kevin reaches base half of the times he’s up to bat. When Youk was with the Sea Dogs, he walked 86 times in 94 games. Youkilis has such good vision he can see the last row of the eye-test chart, in fact he has 10/20 vision.
A coach at the time summarized Youk’s prospects as follows: “I think he has a chance to play in the big leagues. The test now is to see him at another level.” “If he’s able to make the adjustment (to Triple-A), I think he has a good chance. He’s been on the right path. If he keeps progressing up the ladder and is able to handle the pitching at each level you’ll see him (in Boston).”
On May 15, 2004, Kevin Youkilis made his MLB Debut. In his second at-bat, Kevin hit a homer. The Cincinnati Enquirer ran a headline stating: “Youkilis enjoys ‘Pipp’ of a debut,” referring to Wally Pipp, the third baseman that Lou Gehrig replaced. “Any time you to come up in the big leagues, it’s your chance,” Youkilis said. “Hopefully, I’ll take as much as I can from it.” Fans who follow the Sox and non-fans who have often heard the crowd erupt in the now familiar “YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUK!” know that Kevin meant what he said.
Kevin’s promising debut, however, was bittersweet. His old college friend who had been so supportive years before was not there to celebrate Youk’s transition into the majors. Tragically, that friend had committed suicide during their sophomore year. To this day, Kevin has been actively committed to suicide prevention efforts.
Another thing that Youkilis takes with him from his childhood is his taste in music. He likes Tupac Shakur, Notorious B.I.G., Soundgarden, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam. “It’s the rap from when I was in high school,” Youkilis explains. “I have a wide variety of music but I still go back to that grunge era – Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam.” When he walks up to the plate at Fenway, you hear, Rick Ross’s “Push It to the Limit” blaring in the loud speakers.
Let’s all hope that Youkilis can succeed again in 2010 at pushing his baseball skills to the limit.
Here is a video called Get To Know Kevin Youkilis
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Vodpod videos no longer available.
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I am not optimistic that the Sox will do well in 2010. We lost Manny and Bay. Ortiz is not as good any more. Papelbon is no longer lights out. The Red Sox are also playing in the toughest division. And to make it worse the Yankees got better: they added an all-star center fielder, Curtis Granderson, to an all-star roster. The only game-changer we added is John Lackey. I think we will make it to the ALDS and then lose it in 7 games. Although I don’t think that the Sox will make it to the World Series, I am very excited about their season coming up. I think if we kept Jason Bay we might have won the World Series this year. I do hope that the Sox do great this year, but I just don’t see it happening.